The Courtin’ of Maggie Long

Maggie Long worked in Gillmor’s shop in Dromahair at the same time as my mother, Ena, during the late 1940s. She was originally from Ballybofey, in County Donegal and had worked in the household of Lofty Bothwell in Fermanagh before coming to Dromahair to work there as a servant. This song tells of her courting by John “Sonny” McCauley, and of the humorous impact of the bicycle on romance during the 1940s.

Maggie Long on her wedding day June 1951.

I’ve changed the name in one line to ‘We’ll hire Wally Davis and his new taxi car.’ which was a line remembered by one of my cousins from a song heard on a visit to Manorhamilton with their father Wallace Davis in the 1960s. It was most likely sung in a version of this song.

In the song, John McCauley’s estimate of Maggie’s age as being ‘around thirty’, was somewhat amiss.  Years later when Maggie received her first pension and Johnny discovered her real age, she turned out to be considerably older than him.  Shocked, and rather than continue to live with the shame of it in Creevelea, Sonny up sticks and they moved north to Ballybofey, where they lived out the rest of their days, being known as a “couple of characters”. 

John and Maggie on their wedding day June 1951.
The Courtin’ of Maggie Long

My name’s John McCauley, I'm from Creevelea. 
I’m courtin a girl from Ballybofey.
She’s aged around thirty, she’s both handsome and strong, 
And her name now I’ll mention, she’s one Maggie Long.

To tell you the truth it was love at first sight,
And I dream of her always by day and by night.
I’ll never be happy ’til I see the day 
That I’m married to Maggie from Ballybofey.

I met her in Newbridge out there at a dance. 
Her attractive appearance I saw at a glance. 
When a foxtrot was called, we were soon on the floor. 
For dancing her equal I ne’er saw before.

I immediately asked her if I’d see her home. 
She said ‘Right you be for I’m out on my own.’
I said ‘Get your coat now and we’ll make no delay
For its a long way from here to Ballybofey’.

She put on her coat and we stood near the door. 
She says ‘Have you ever been down there before?
For in case that you haven’t we might go astray 
So I’ll mention some towns we’ll pass through on the way.’

‘We’ll first have refreshments in Drumkerin town. 
From there to Manorhamilton we won’t find going down. 
Kinlough and Bundoran we’ll pass through them all 
And next to Ballyshannon in old Donegal.’

From there to Ballintra is ten miles or so,
Then Donegal Town, not too far more to go,
Across Barnesmore Gap and we’re most of the way
And the next town we’ll meet will be Ballybofey.’

Now I looked at my bike and the back wheel was flat. 
Says I ‘I’m not game for a journey like that. 
The night is so bad and the journey so far
Sure we'll hire Mat Roddin. He has a new car.’  
(or We’ll hire Wally Davis and his new taxi car.)

Says she ‘If you like sure we needn’t go down?
Cause I’m working in Gillmor’s in Dromahair town.’
So I pumped up my bike and it ran fairly free 
And we soon pulled in at the Hotel, Abbey.

We spent a full hour there and we both ate our fill.
Then we took a stroll down by the sawmill 
And ’twas there by the road in a shed full of hay 
That I first courted Maggie from Ballybofey.



The author of the song is unknown. The words are recorded by Padraig Fitzpatrick. Photographs and further information on the couple are from John Long.

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